I was so inspired by the amazing chicken coop hacks I shared in this post that I had to share some more! So, today, I am taking you on a personal tour of my own chicken coop and I am spilling the beans on some of my own chicken coop hacks… including solar lighting, temporary brooder boxes, DIY pallet wood nesting boxes and more!
The first thing that you might notice about our chicken coop is that it doesn’t look very “chicken coop-ish”. That’s because it’s not a chicken coop at all. It’s actually a children’s playhouse kit from The Little Cottage Co. It comes delivered to your home as a partially assembled kit. You basically just put all the walls and roof together and screw it into place. We used shingles from Habitat for Humanity ReStore (we love that place!) and salvaged composite decking material for the flooring (more about that later!). While using a kit may have been a little more pricey than building our own coop, we chose this option because it allowed us to get a super cute coop in a portion of the time. It was easy enough to put together (other than some of the walls being mislabeled) and anyone who is mildly-handy can handle this project.
This model had some features we really liked as well. It has two doors: a full-sized “people door” on the side of the coop and a smaller “bird door” on the front of the coop. Both are barn-style doors, which allow us to open just the top half, just the bottom half, or both. It’s fantastic for ventilation! In the winter, we open just the bottom half of the small “bird door” to allow the birds to come and go without making the coop too drafty. In the summer, we open all the doors to allow extra ventilation and cross breezes. The two small windows can also be opened and are screened. During the warmer seasons, we keep the windows open at night to allow ventilation.
Another reason we chose this style over a traditional coop is because we house our ducks and chickens together currently. Ducks are much larger than chickens and require a larger house. Our coop is an 8×8 and it houses all of our ducks and chickens perfectly. (Side note on housing ducks and chickens together: There is definitely some debate about whether or not ducks and chickens can be housed together and there are differing opinions on the subject. To be sure, there are definitely some different care requirements for ducks and chickens, but we have found that they can co-exist very well together, and that it can actually be beneficial to house them together).
While our chicken coop may have been a pre-manufactured kit, we have customized and outfitted the interior to fit with our needs. One of my favorite customizations is the lofted shelf that we built inside the coop. Our coop is tall enough to allow us to easily stand while inside and it had enough extra vertical space to allow a loft. The loft spans just under half of the coop. It can store two straw bales along with other miscellaneous supplies. Having this extra storage has been a life-saver, and it has allowed us to use what would have otherwise been wasted vertical space.
We installed a solar light that we bought on Amazon for about $30. It was easy to install and since it’s solar, we don’t have to worry about running cords or electricity to the coop for lighting purposes. It’s not super bright, but it absolutely gets the job done and we no longer have to wear headlamps or tote flashlights out to the coop.
This spring, we made a removable brooder box that fits into the coop directly under the lofted shelf. We made a simple frame out of 1×1’s and stretched chicken wire over it and secured the wire to the frame with a staple gun. It was amazing to be able to have the baby birds outside in the coop instead of living in my office the entire time. It has also allowed for an extremely easy transition period, as our adult birds were already used to living with the younger birds. They all have gotten along beautifully since we have let the young birds out of the brooder! Once the ducklings and chicks were old enough, we simply removed the brooder and stored it away until we need it again next Spring. So easy!
We also installed a heat lamp system for the brooder. Let me be very clear that I am not a fan of heat lamps in the chicken coop and the only time we use them is when we have our brooder in the coop for our young chicks and ducklings. Other than that, we don’t use the heat lamps, even in the cold of winter. It’s just not worth the risk of a coop fire. With chicks and ducklings though, a heat source is necessary until they can begin regulating their own body temperature and developing feathers. The heat lamps are installed under the loft, which is where the temporary brooder fits in our coop. The lights are secured so that they can’t be bumped or knocked down. All power cords have been secured to the wall beams and ceiling rafters of the coop. The cords run under the storage shelf ledge to the coop wall and then up to the roof rafters and over to a power strip that is secured to the inside of the door frame. When we use the heat lamps, we plug them into the power strip and connect it to an external power cord that runs to a power outlet on the exterior of our home. All of the wires are up off the ground, so there is no chance of the birds being able to get tangled in them or pecking at them. Since things get dusty in a chicken coop, I always recommend cleaning and lighting/power equipment regularly. It might not be a perfect system, but it is working very well for us.
We added some rustic flair with our DIY nesting boxes made out of repurposed pallets. Okay, truthfully, our original intent had nothing to do with adding “rustic flair” to the coop. We needed nesting boxes and we happened to have pallet wood on hand. But the nesting boxes did turn out quite well! Best of all, they were free! And the chickens definitely approve of the nesting boxes! They approve so much that we have a hard time keeping them out of the boxes… Oh the joys of broody hens!
We completed the coop with a salvaged composite decking floor. Yes, that’s right, our coop has a composite deck floor. ‘Cause our chicks are fancy. Not really. But we did have a lot of reasons for choosing this flooring. We decided on full flooring instead of a dirt or sand floor in order to keep our birds safe from any predators who could possibly dig into the coop. We weren’t crazy about a wood floor because wood can be hard to clean and absorbs moisture easily. We looked at different ways we could paint or coat the wood to make it more resilient and easier to clean, but a lot of the options were pricey. That’s when we remembered the pile of composite decking pieces we had salvaged from my parent’s patio remodel several years early. I can honestly say, it was the best option we could have made for flooring! We keep the floor covered in straw which we rake out about once a week. The straw goes into the compost pile or is used as mulch in the garden. The floor is super easy to clean! It isn’t absorbent like wood and since it is made of composite plastic, you can easily sweep it, rake it, or spray it off with the hose. It’s won’t become moldy or musty and it won’t wear out over the years. Composite decking can be expensive to buy, but it’s a “forever” flooring option that will never wear out and is easy to clean. If you can find or salvage composite decking material, I highly suggest it for your chicken coop floor!
We have had so much fun creating our chicken coop to make it a happy and healthy environment for our chickens and ducks! And, I don’t think I will ever get tired of hearing people talk about the little details that they have incorporated into their own coops! There is an endless amount of inspiration for chicken coop design and function! I would love to hear what special features you have incorporated into your own chicken coops and duck houses to make them functional and fun. Share your best chicken coop ideas and hacks in the comments below so we can all enjoy!